Marching event tests Sophie’s endurance

Cpl Sophie Telford with one of her International Four Days Marches Nijmegen medals.
Cpl Sophie Telford with one of her International Four Days Marches Nijmegen medals.

A Morpeth teenager showed great endurance to complete the course at the largest marching event in the world.

Cpl Sophie Telford was the only female in the team representing the Durham and Northumberland wing of the Air Cadets at the International Four Days Marches Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

The 404 (Morpeth) Squadron Air Training Corps member did 103 miles in total and she received a limited edition medal as it was the 100th edition of the event.

This year, more than 40,000 people signed up for the march – which has military and civilian participants – and over one million spectators cheered from the side of the roads as the walkers went through parts of the city and towns on its outskirts.

A huge crowd greeted the participants at the end of the event in Nijmegen and among those in attendance was King of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander.

The seven Durham and Northumberland wing representatives were among a team of more than a dozen and they were part of the British military contingent. They were also awarded a team medal after each one in the group completed the challenge.

They started their march at about 4am each day to limit the amount of time they marched in the hot sun.

Sophie, who lives in Kirkhill and attends King Edward VI School, said: “It was always quite busy because we had to keep to narrow roads and there was a quick turnover at the stop points.

“We had to deal with really hot temperatures on the first three days and so the torrential rain on the final morning was great at first, but the intensity of it soon made conditions very difficult.

“The support of the public was fantastic. Even early in the morning people were outside giving us refreshments and on the hot days, some sprayed us with their hoses.

“The Netherlands is mainly a flat country, although there was some hilly terrain on the third day.

“When we reached the finish at Nijmegen, there was a 5km victory parade and the amount of people on the streets to greet us was ridiculously insane.

“We and other military teams did an ‘eyes right’ salute to the King. It was hard, but it was worth it as it was a great experience and I was proud to be part of such a strong team.

“There were times where we sang songs and interacted with other teams to keep our spirits up – this was especially important in the final stretch of marching each day.”

The 17-year-old did training for the marches on a disused runway at Albemarle Barracks. She and her team-mates, the rest were from the Tyne & Wear and County Durham areas, did the required qualifying marches at RAF Wyton in Cambridgeshire. They did 50 miles over two days.